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  • Writer's pictureJohn Min

Unlocking the Skyline: Mastering Occupied Rooftops and Terraces in NYC Buildings

The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) issued Buildings Bulletin 2018-002 to provide detailed guidance on the requirements and regulations surrounding occupied rooftops and terraces in both new and existing buildings. This comprehensive bulletin aims to clarify the construction codes, zoning resolutions, filing procedures, and safety considerations associated with these spaces. By addressing key aspects, such as egress requirements, structural integrity, zoning compliance, filing processes, and various considerations, the bulletin aims to streamline the process for building owners and developers, ensuring the safe and efficient utilization of rooftop and terrace areas.

Construction Codes and Safety Considerations:

Rooftops and terraces accessible to building occupants must adhere to the stringent requirements outlined in the New York City Construction Codes. Designers and developers must pay special attention to critical factors such as egress requirements, including occupant loads, the number of exits, travel distances, egress widths, and adequate lighting. Additionally, the structural integrity of these areas must be carefully considered, accounting for dead, live, and wind loads. Safety features like parapet and guardrail heights must also comply with applicable standards to ensure occupant safety.

Zoning Resolution Compliance:

In addition to adhering to the construction codes, rooftop and terrace projects must comply with the specific provisions of the New York City Zoning Resolution. Enclosure requirements may be applicable in certain zoning districts unless the use of the rooftop or terrace falls under specific exceptions. Notably, passive recreation spaces that serve as amenities for a principal use within the building are exempt from enclosure requirements. Paving materials, walking surfaces, and vegetated roofs added to the rooftop are considered permitted obstructions as long as they adhere to prescribed height limitations. Rooftop greenhouses are classified as floor area and must comply with building height restrictions unless permitted under specific zoning provisions.

Filing Requirements:

For new building (NB) and Alteration Type 1 (Alt-1) filings, the occupied rooftop or terrace must be accurately indicated on the PW-1A form, ensuring that the information is reflected in the Certificate of Occupancy (CofO). Existing buildings seeking to convert unoccupied rooftops or terraces into occupied spaces, such as rooftop gardens or restaurants, can pursue an Alteration Type 2 (Alt-2) filing without requiring a new or amended CofO. However, specific conditions must be met, including limitations on occupant loads, the absence of structural alterations, and compliance with means of egress and accessibility requirements.

Illustrative Examples:

The bulletin offers comprehensive examples to illustrate the practical application of the guidelines in different scenarios. These examples cover conversions of unoccupied rooftops and terraces in diverse building types, such as co-op apartment buildings, office buildings, dwellings, and hotels. Each example demonstrates how the specific requirements and conditions outlined in the bulletin can be met, enabling Alt-2 filings without the need for a new or amended CofO. These illustrative cases highlight the flexibility and feasibility of repurposing unoccupied rooftop spaces while ensuring compliance with safety and regulatory standards.

Structural Loads, Wind Effects, Accessibility, and Fire Code:

The bulletin emphasizes the importance of considering structural loads and wind effects when designing occupied rooftops and terraces. Design professionals must carefully assess and account for the additional loads introduced by amenities, such as outdoor furniture, planters, decorative materials, and artworks. Furthermore, accessibility requirements must be incorporated into the design and configuration of rooftop occupancies, aligning with the standards outlined in Chapter 11 of the NYC Building Code. Exit signs and lighting are necessary for rooftop and terrace occupancies with multiple exit accesses, and they must be illuminated during occupied periods. The design and configuration of rooftop occupancies must also adhere to the New York City Fire Code, including considerations for building and rooftop access.

Buildings Bulletin 2018-002 provides a comprehensive and detailed set of guidelines for the development and utilization of occupied rooftops and terraces in NYC buildings. By addressing construction codes, zoning resolutions, filing procedures, and safety considerations, the bulletin aims to provide clarity and streamline the process for building owners and developers. Complying with these guidelines ensures the safe and efficient utilization of rooftop and terrace spaces, facilitating the creation of valuable amenities while maintaining the overall integrity and safety of the building.

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